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081 - The HR Brand & Branding HR

Everybody knows that nobody 'likes' HR... and it's not all HR's fault. Tyson and Alexa connect with Chief Marketing Officer, Matt Duffy, to debate rebranding the profession, and to discuss what makes good branding, what makes bad branding, and where HR just... steps in it. Tune in this week as the discussion gets a little heated over what makes and breaks a brand, how HR can get more people to pay attention, why HR should be the marketing teams' best friends and the ins and outs of building a brand that people will 'bleed' for.





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Alexa Baggio on Instagram, Tiktok, and LinkedIn

Tyson Mackenzie on Instagram at @hr.shook



Alexa

How's your energy today?


Tyson

Oh, I'm good. I you know, it's just.


Alexa

I feel like I'm getting you in business mode.


Tyson

Yeah, I definitely am. You definitely.


Alexa

I look at you like a little. You look a little in it right now.


Tyson

Yeah, I know. Toggling sometime is sometimes is interesting. I actually had someone recently asked me like, yeah, what's it like? Like working and podcasting and being a new mom. And I was like, no, it's fucking hard. So that's it. I'm not going to sugarcoat that.


Alexa

I would like to think that the podcast thing is the easiest of those three things, like being a real adult animal, probably. Yes.


Tyson

Yes. It adds a certain lightness that I think is very important to my mental. All right.


Alexa

That makes me feel special. We get to add some levity to your life. Very cool. So anything new? Rosie's doing well. Life is good.


Tyson

Yeah, everything is good.


Alexa

Cool, cool. I'm just still hiding out in Mexico. So I got I got no major updates, however relevant to our conversations. Today. We do have a sexy new brand. I'm very excited about our new book. We've come a long way, baby, as they say. I think that's a Moby song or something terrible. It's a bad reference. That was a bad reference.


Alexa

Our guest today is Matt Duffy. He is the chief marketing officer at Pixar Ability and a long time friend of mine. Full disclosure, Matt and I have worked together before. There's not a human in the marketing world. I respect more or enjoy working with more. So I'm I'm flattered that Matt agreed to join us today to talk a little bit about H.R. and the brand of H.R. and employer branding.


Alexa

So welcome to the podcast, Matt or Duffy, as I may to.


Matt

Thank you, Alexa. I'm very happy to be here and glad that you haven't met enough marketers to still think that I'm at the top of your list.


Alexa

Yeah, it's my world this small.


Matt

I keep it's.


Alexa

Not a low bar.


Matt

Matt. It's the hand that room in Mexico. And I'll.


Tyson

Drive through the window.


Matt

Right where I.


Alexa

Am, my windowless room in Mexico. If you really want to do some soul searching, live in a windowless apartment for a month in Mexico, it's. Yeah, it's. Yeah, it's a trip. Yeah, I'm really, really exploring all sides of myself right now.


Matt

It's like that Brie Larson movie, The Room, right? You're just, like, down there.


Alexa

You yeah, that's it. That's my life right now. Everyone's like, Oh, you're at the beach. You must be so glamorous. I'm like, You should see that fucking piece of shit. I believe in the downsides of remote life. There are so.


Matt

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.


Alexa

Now, what is that?


Matt

Am I allowed to ask what that is behind you? Is that a yes?


Alexa

So it's not a bed. I get asked about a lot. It is actually a partition that has been constructed for those of you that are listening out of wood beams. So it's kind of like the bed is actually behind it. It's it's kind of like a pretend scream wall. It's a pretend wall. Exactly. But I get asked about it on every call.


Alexa

I just sort of thought it does. It looks, it looks like someone made a for it out of like twine and logs. But no, it actually adds a little charm to the place. So I'm not mad about it, but it is very random. It's unclear why it was necessary other than to make it harder to get to the bathroom.


Alexa

Yeah. And you just moved. Matt, congratulations on a new house.


Matt

So I did just move and I apologize to anyone listening. If you hear lots of noises in the background, I also couldn't find my headphones today, which Alexa is going.


Alexa

To.


Matt

Forever beat me up about but yes, I just moved.


Alexa

I've given up on guest audio. I just our team best. I've given up so well.


Matt

It's really bad because I do I do these things. I don't do a podcast. I'm not at that level yet, but I do interviews with people all the time, and I make sure they have the right audio, the right headphones. We tested everything and now I'm totally being a rookie, so I apologize.


Alexa

All right. We try and then we have guests like you where we just say, Fuck it, here we are. Yeah, we're going to put it out anyway. So yeah, yeah. Shout out to the editing team. That's all I have to say. So, all right. So so we've worked together. We've we've been through lots of shit. But one of the things I know that you are very, very let's say, stingy about Matt that I adore about you is that you are the guy that is like, our brand can't suck.


Alexa

But before we go into that, before we talk about your brand snobbery and how that applies to the wild and wonderful world of art, I want to hear unabashedly sort of your experience with H.R. in your career and before we do that, let's just give the people a little bit of background on who you are and what you do.


Alexa

And then I want to hear I want to hear all the shit.


Matt

Sure, sure. So, you know, I have worked in marketing most of my life. I started out as a market research guy and then a sales guy. And I was always the one that said our marketing team sucks our brand sucks. And finally, we had a CEO at a company I worked for that said, All right, smart guy, why don't you try to do marketing?


Matt

We had a director of marketing at the time. We didn't have a senior marketing person. We had a director of marketing, and he said and his name is Bob Carrigan, and he's actually the CEO of Audible now. He's a guy that is a bad ass. He always was a bad ass. But this this move with me was he said probably not an H.R. approved move, by the way, but he said, we already have a director of marketing.


Matt

We're going to make you also a director of marketing at the end of this six months. I'm going to keep one of you. The other one of you is going to be gone. So that was my first okay. That was my first foray into marketing. And in it made me learn on the on the job and also learn not to criticize other departments again.


Matt

By the way. So as I said, yeah, so as we talk about H.R. and my feelings about H.R., I have to be careful that someone doesn't come along and say, well, why don't you try this because I'm sure I would do worse than anyone. So, yeah, so I've been in marketing forever since then. I've had senior roles at mostly smaller companies, the one that I worked with with you, obviously Alexa was a very small company.


Matt

The company I work for now is called Pixability. We're a YouTube advertising software company. It's a great place to be with YouTube growing and connected, TV streaming growing. But yeah, I like to work at smallish companies, so most my experience with H.R. folks has been smaller teams without a lot of resources trying to figure out how they should be working with marketing or not.


Matt

You know, all that good stuff, right?


Alexa

Okay. So when just so that people understand, when you're when you're doing something like marketing for a group like Pixability, you're focused on both the foundation that is the brand and then also all the way up to lead gen. So like you've got to get your sales team leads and the efforts that go into that. So there's kind of a bit of a pyramid there for those of you that are not in marketing all day, but Matt, one of the things that I know you're very stingy about is this idea of branding.


Alexa

So before we go into branding, I just want to get your thoughts on the brand of our full stop like if you were to describe where the brand of H.R. is right now, in your eyes, what would you say?


Matt

I think it's unfortunately still not thought of as a cool career, right? Like it's not like people aren't like suites. You're in H.R. That's awesome. Like and I think that's unfortunate because I think I think there are lots of extremely cool roles in H.R. and there are some amazing H.R. people and etc., etc. But yeah, I would say my one my survey of one thing is like if if someone was like, hey, I, you know, I'm a racecar driver now, but I think I'm going to get into H.R. that would be weird.


Matt

You'd be like, Really? That's what you're choosing to do? So, yeah, the branding is probably, you know, could be improved.


Alexa

Yeah. Any reasons why you think that is in your experience?


Matt

I mean, I just think there's so much baggage with it that comes with trying to deal with stuff. Sometimes H.R. gets blamed for lack of pay or lack of good culture or a lot of things that they they can help but can't always solve. That sometimes come from, you know, the executive of the other executives and so forth.


Matt

I think it's that mishmash of things that that, you know, if I'm not getting paid well, if my health care is too high, all these things that really an H.R. person has only so much control over, I blame them. And then like I said, it's all the sort of conflict issues within a company. If the H.R. person isn't helping solve those which are really hard issues, they sort of get blamed with that, too.


Matt

And it's I don't know that maybe there needs to be a new name for I mean, there probably are you guys probably know and you're talking about this every all the time on the podcast, but they're maybe Human Resources is a dated as a day to name.


Alexa

Tyson. Did you.


Tyson

Hear that? Well, like I think like you kind of like how I would elaborate on that is that H.R. deals with the things that people care most deeply about.


Alexa

So and nobody wants to deal with.


Matt

Yeah.


Tyson

Yeah, but but it's how an individual gets paid, how your benefits are determined, how your promotion, your career, all these things that you care deeply about versus like, the finance team. Like if someone's saying about the finance team, they're like, Yeah, obviously I want to work for a company that's making money. But what really matters to me is not how much money the company is making other than like, obviously we want it to continue to be successful, but how much at the end of the day, I take home that's what matters to me.


Tyson

And H.R. is sort of this umbrella department, so to speak, or this a group that deals with everything that matters very very, very deeply to individuals. And it's very it's a difficult space to operate in when nobody's ever happy with how much they're getting paid. Nobody's ever happy with how much benefits they're giving. Nobody like people just are never fucking happy about anything, right?


Tyson

They always want more. And to be an H.R. department, that's balancing everybody's need for unique treatment and special bespoke treatment to them, but also keeping a company running. You know, we can't just pay everybody like as an hour, you know, practitioner. I would love to give everybody a raise, but that's just not feasible because we still need to make sure the business is running.


Tyson

And at the end of the day, H.R. is hired by a company to support the company. We're not people's personal support workers. That's another huge misconception is that people think that I'm hired to help you with all your day to day problems. That's not it. And with that, I think it just creates a lot of negativity in the space of H.R. that, like, we are forever going to be fighting against.


Tyson

And because we can't make everybody happy and everybody's always going to blame H.R., despite the fact that is not making any of these decisions, we're simply just executing and making sure that decisions are executed in a way that is actually the most beneficial to people that we possibly we can we do the how not the what. Yeah. So I think with that and yes, there's a lot of like issues with like using H.R. human resources.


Tyson

The problem is I just haven't heard a title that I like any better. I hate using culture titles. I think that's complete bullshit. It's not our job to be responsible for the culture.


Alexa

Yes. Matt has been the captain of every culture committee I think he's ever he's ever.


Tyson

And that's.


Alexa

His company.


Tyson

No, I think it's.


Alexa

Amazing for Matt because it speaks to who he is. But if you have a culture committee, your shit is done.


Tyson

No, it's amazing that you as a non H.R. person, as a CMO, is involved in that. It's not up to the part. It's about everybody that H.R. might be involved. But everybody needs to be involved in the culture it's not just something that is like leading and running. Like we can't just be.


Alexa

A scapegoat when it sucks.


Tyson

Exactly. And that's that's the other issue. So anyways, I I'm still pro H.R., I haven't heard a title I like any better. I am pro taking back. H.R. wants to reclaim H.R.. I want to reclaim H.R. like I am. I I want.


Alexa

To blow the whole thing up and start over Good luck.


Tyson

With that.


Alexa

This is what I'm to blow it up. She's she has to take it back. It's okay.


Matt

So what what are some of the other ones that that are used? I know there's like, I'm VP of people all right.


Alexa

People is probably the the the the newest, biggest one. And I actually agree with people. It's the what comes after people that I think like even people operations and we you know we run a community called a big operation. Society still falls a bit short because it's not it's not.


Tyson

Operation.


Alexa

Operations. In fact, we're trying to strip the operational category out of this function. But get admin out of H.R. people. Optimization just doesn't roll off the tone. It's a bit it's tough. It's like, this is why we still have a podcast a year and a half later is like that. The debate is still ongoing. You know, I'd be curious to hear what you think, Matt, and I'd be curious to hear what you think.


Alexa

Just sort of if we were to pull back for a second, like and just take H.R. out of it, like how do you what makes a good brand and how do you build a good brand? Because you've got.


Matt

Right and it you know, you're right. I care a lot about it. I'm not been successful and always making the companies I work for have great brands I think it's I think like H.R., like marketing team only has control over certain things. And it's sort of a team effort as well. You sort of have to have you know, it's it takes a village for for branding as well.


Matt

But what makes a good brand? I mean, I always think back at like everyone always talks about Apple and it's so cliche, but I always I always think back at the old Apple ads that may pre-date the two of you because I'm old. Well, I mean, you were probably a.


Alexa

George Orwell one.


Matt

Well, not that one, but the one where it's the nerdy guy who represents Apple and the cool guy that represents Apple. But he still does. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Justin Long, I think. Yes.


Alexa

Yes.


Matt

And then it's this other guy who is super nerdy, who almost looks like Bill Gates, who represents PC Microsoft. Yeah. And that to me just sums up like what you want to be you want to be the cool thing and not the nerdy thing. In the more you can position yourself as the cool thing and not the nerdy thing, the better.


Matt

As it turned out, it's really funny. But as it turned out, I went to a high school reunion of mine, and the nerdy guy in that commercial was in my class, and I never realized it just just again, to age myself. The Microsoft guy, the Microsoft guy, I'm like, Of course I went to school with the Microsoft PC guy.


Matt

But so, you know, it's about I do think, Alexa, you and I are very similar. I don't know if you feel the same way, Tyson, but I do think there's a lot to be said about look and feel like look and feel of your brand is super, super crucial. I think, you know, I hate a bad logo. I hate the bad use of colors I you know, I've had I've had the benefit of working with some amazing creative directors of my life that have taught taught me a lot about like what's a no no, what isn't.


Matt

Actually, you're great. At, like, finding good creative people and knowing what to tell them, what to do and so forth. So I think visual has a lot to do with it with me. But then it's like how you express yourself to the world. I think what's really hard to do, which is critical, is aligning as a company on what your tone is, what your voice is I like you, Alexa, and I assume like you, Tyson.


Matt

Like I like to be kind of casual and real. Sometimes that's not okay with a company, depending on what you're selling or services you're providing. It's like, can you tone it down a little bit? Like you're making too many jokes about, you know, you're selling a life saving drug don't make jokes about, you know, or whatever, whatever it might be.


Matt

So so that's a very long answer as to, like, brand. To me, it's like it's visual, but it's much more of a feeling. And you just it's a feeling of like, I just, I just want to work with that company, Patagonia, probably it probably my favorite brand in the world because you're just like, I just want to do I just want to buy stuff from them.


Alexa

So that's fascinating that you use them as an example because where I want to go with this is like, how does that permeate into the employer brand, which I will argue till my eyes turn blue, my eyes are brown. If you can't see me, like it gets just completely neglected and is always, almost always, I would say nine times out of ten, very disconnected from the external brand.


Alexa

Oh, yes. And Patagonia is probably the one example I can think of. Maybe if you others, maybe Amazon, maybe Apple, maybe just depending on their employer brands where that brand seems to also permeate the internal culture. And I would venture to guess that is visible on a lot of touchpoints. So the way that they communicate to their employees is, you know, branded, etc. So I'd be curious to think like how does your how does your brand permeate into your employee experience and if you have thoughts about that.


Matt

Yeah, I mean, I think that's been one of my biggest challenges with H.R. people in The Pet. Well, I've had a lot of challenges with they just.


Alexa

Want to hear all.


Matt